Written Answers - EU Membership.

Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 615 No. 76

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  74.  Mr. Noonan  Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   the position with regard to Turkey’s application for EU membership; when the matter is next to be discussed with his EU counterparts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6847/06]

  248.  Mr. Durkan  Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   the extent to which discussions have taken place at EU level in the matter of Turkish membership of the Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7433/06]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 248 together.

Accession negotiations were opened with Turkey on 3 October 2005, marking the beginning of what is set to be a protracted and complex process. Turkey’s accession could have substantial financial consequences and the conclusions adopted at the Council on 3 October 2005 indicate that the negotiations can only be concluded after the establishment of the Union’s financial framework for the period beyond 2014.

The agreed negotiating framework states that the shared objective of the negotiations — an open-ended process whose outcome cannot be guaranteed beforehand — is accession. Turkey will be expected to maintain its commitment to the full implementation of human rights and other reforms. The negotiating framework also states that the Union’s capacity to absorb Turkey will be an important consideration. The issue of the Union’s absorption capacity is expected to be raised in the context of the forthcoming debate [683]on the Union’s enlargement strategy. It is recognised that the Union must remain rigorous in demanding the fulfilment of its criteria for membership. It is also accepted that the Union must communicate effectively with EU citizens and respond to concerns that have been raised in order to anchor support for the enlargement process.

The Commission is currently engaged with Turkey in conducting a screening process designed to assess their state of readiness in the various chapters of the accession negotiations. It is expected to take until late 2006 to complete the screening process for all chapters. After each chapter has been screened, the Council can decide, on the basis of a proposal from the Commission, whether negotiations can be opened in these specific areas. To date, two screening reports, concerning the science and research and education and culture chapters, have been forwarded by the Commission to the Council for consideration.

On 12 December 2005, the General Affairs and External Relations Council, GAERC, welcomed agreement on the accession partnership with Turkey, which has the objective of dealing with problems related to accession. The Council encouraged Turkey to update its national plan for implementing the identified priorities and recalled that the advancement of negotiations would be guided by progress in implementing the accession partnership. Ireland is providing assistance to Turkey as part of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ bilateral assistance programme, which is designed to help new member states and candidate countries prepare for the challenges of EU membership.

In December, the Council also recalled that the Union will ensure follow-up in 2006 on those issues set out in the counter declaration of the EU and its member states of 21 September 2005. This counter declaration was issued in response to Turkey’s statement that its signature of the additional protocol to the Ankara agreement — which takes account of the accession of ten new member states, including the Republic of Cyprus to the Union — did not amount to the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus. The EU’s counter declaration stresses that the opening of negotiations on certain chapters will depend on Turkey’s implementation of its contractual obligations to all member states, including the Republic of Cyprus.

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